Who would have thought that a musical about the seventh president of the United States would be sexy, raucous and wonderful?
]]>“Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson” is terrific, but maybe it needed to stay downtown. On Broadway, it’s only running until Sunday, Jan. 2. Though based on history, parents and schools planning trips should know that the show is full of sexual innuendo, bad language and violence. That’s not why it’s wonderful, but the bawdiness adds to its charm. The main reason this musical soars is Benjamin Walker (“Flags of Our Fathers”) as Jackson. Though it’s early in the Broadway season, and this didn’t have the staying power to draw in audiences its fans would have hoped, it’s a fair bet that Walker will earn a Tony nomination for his work. From the opening song of “Populism Yea Yea,” Walker, as Jackson, shines. He’s devilish, when flirting with the audience or slaughtering the British, Native Americans or anyone who crosses him. The 90-minute musical, without an intermission, follows in the footsteps of “Passing Strange,” “American Idiot” and other edgier musicals. From the moment people walk into the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre, they know this is a different experience. A cow carcass, suspended by a thick chain, hangs over the audience in the lower orchestra and the theater is awash in red lights — thousands of fairy lights and red neon — to give the glow of blood. Jackson is as unlikely fodder for a rock musical as anyone. Yet the show, written and directed by Alex Timbers and with music by Michael Friedman, is a lot of fun. The musical cleverly mixes historical and fictional, colonial and modern times, and with that recipe, it’s more likely that this would be a mess, yet it works. “It may be about our seventh president, but it tackles that ebullient, sentimental, no-nonsense, self-pitying, anti-intellectual, rowdy energy that is the core of our national identity — with a precision that speaks totally to our moment,” Oskar Eustis, artistic director of the Public Theater, where this began, writes in Playbill. “This is who we are, and it’s horrifying. It can also be a lot of fun.” Shades of modern Tea Party politics come through (one woman sings that she isn’t a witch) and it’s clear that Timbers keeps revising. A reference to Susan Sontag’s death falls flat, but that was the only lull in a delightfully manic 90 minutes. John Quincy Adams tries to steal the election. Jeff Hiller, playing Adams among many other roles (most of the actors assume several parts), instead steals scenes. In “The Corrupt Bargain” the chorus sings, “Do you really want the American people running their own country?” An insulting question, but one the audience is in a better position to answer after a wild hour and a half with this group.